I was walking through the Longwood medical neighborhood of Boston. I had the address of the clinic where I would have my first appointment with Josh.
The people with whom I shared the sidewalk that early afternoon may well have been medical personnel, visitors to patients in the nearby hospitals, or individuals (like me) referred to a specialist by their primary care provider.
Less than a month from my sixty-fifth birthday, I did not want to resemble too closely either of my parents twenty or thirty years ago. At least not yet. How many visits to New Orleans had included a visit to a clinic or hospital, a doctor’s appointment for which I would drop off one or both of my parents while I parked the car. Each of those appointments had defined a day for my parents – the time they would shower that morning, the kind of lunch they might plan, the length of nap required for the recovery of energy.
I had taken time off of work for this appointment with Josh, and I had driven myself to the busy Longwood neighborhood. I was wearing the kind of tie and sport jacket that I frequently wear on campus. I wanted not to appear lost or bewildered or – for gracious sake – in any way frightened as I looked at street numbers on the buildings I was passing.
No matter how many prescriptions I had on automatic refill, I did not want to think that my health was becoming my main work this early in my life.
As though I had any control over that.
The further down the sidewalk I walked, the more the suspicion grew that I may have inadvertently passed my destination.
But, no, there it was – an old-fashioned medical building with columns across the front. I pushed the handle across one of the wide glass doors. It was a busy but sunny lobby into which I walked, and somewhere above the to and fro of passersby was the sound of notes being plucked on a harp.
Believe it or not, I knew immediately who it was playing her harp in a hospital lobby in the middle of a workday. A friend my age has a music ministry that she exercises in hospitals up and down this one street. I may not have expected her in just this building on just this day, but who ever expects that just what they need will be there – abundantly and beautifully – at just the moment they need it?
Over the past few years any number of people have walked into hospitals and clinics where Nancy is playing. They stop, some of them, on their way to a doctor’s appointment. They stop, some of them, after a long night at the bedside of a dying parent. They stop for the music and the way it reminds them of what they might have momentarily forgotten about their lives and the things that are important and grounding in them.
Neither I nor any of the other people who stop and listen to Nancy every day have any control over what good people like her might be ready to offer them.
We have no control over what life is ready to offer.
In the language of the churches, the experience is called grace.
I can hope to be ready for all those things in the weeks and months ahead over which I have no possible control. I bet a lot of them are good, though.